Rocket Lab Gets Its Electron Launcher Ready for the 20th Mission26th Apr 2021
The Electron launcher from Rocket Lab is getting ready for its 20th mission. This time, the company will attempt to recover the first stage of the rocket. Scheduled for May 2021, this launch will execute the second recovery test out of planned three. The first one took place in November 2020 and, like most Rocket Lab endeavors, was successful.
Rocket Lab Plans for Electron First-Stage Recovery
If the company succeeds, Rocket Lab may turn its Electron launcher into the first reusable orbital rocket. To date, it is already the second most frequently launched carrier in the US, but New Zealand-based Rocket Lab does not plan to stop there.
Electron 20th mission is called ‘Running out of Toes’ and will take place from the company’s launch pad in New Zealand. The second stage of the Rocket Lab launcher will deploy two satellites for BlackSky, while the first one will attempt a splashdown recovery test in the ocean, approximately 650 km from the launch facility.
To achieve that, Electron first stage will have to go through several complex maneuvers on descent. Besides, the stage will have to withstand extremely high temperatures — up to 2400 Celsius. To this end, the company has equipped the stage with an advanced heat shield to protect the engines from burning out in the Earth’s atmosphere. To slow down and stabilize in the atmosphere, Electron will use a drogue parachute system.
This mission is the continuation of the first recovery test, ‘Return to Sender,’ that took place in November last year. If the second test is as successful as the first one, Rocket Lab will move on to the third and final planned recovery test. The third mission implies catching the stage with a helicopter from mid-air. While we still have to wait and see how Rocket Lab Electron 20th mission unwraps, the company’s previous launch history inspires hope for success.